true sculptor studio loft at 561 Broadway needs gut, gets $1,142/ft

you’re looking at a $1,400/ft Soho loft, all in (at least)

What would you do with the “2,100 sq ft” Manhattan loft #4A at 561 Broadway (the oh so lovely Little Singer Building)? It “has been the studio and showroom of an important sculptor” (sometimes described as “Spain’s premier living sculptor“), has a kitchen, 2 baths, and a sleep area (floor plan, here), but you must assume it needs everything. There are no photos of the plumbing rooms and no description of finishes, beyond the oh so pregnant “bring your ideas and an architect to make this space your space”. The glory of the space is the ceiling height, the 3 huge columns, and the 47 foot length of french doors over Broadway, most of which leads to one of the inset Juliet balconies that give the building its singular look.

The loft came to market at the unconventional ask of $2.398mm on June 20, found its full price contract within two weeks, and sold on September 25.  If you can easily find the calculator function on your phone (or if you remember the headline) you know that comes out to $1,142/ft. To sit 35 or so feet above Broadway just below Prince (hello Dean & Deluca!, hello double-decker tour buses) and face the challenge of making this space your space.

And challenging it is. The most obvious space for a (real) bedroom (the kind with windows) is that southeast corner ‘alcove’, which would yield a modest bedroom rather a long way from the plumbing. It would also begin to impinge on the true glory of the space: the 47 foot expanse of essentially floor to ceiling glass. Plumbing has to go on the back (dark) wall, it seems, permitting an en-suite (but interior) master bedroom of serious proportion and utility. The floors look magnificent, perhaps needing recondition rather than repair.

A nice kitchen, two nice baths, some carpentry, central air, and fancy in-wall sound … all probably do-able within a budget of $250/ft, or a larger budget, or a much larger budget, as resources and taste require.

Contrast this project (and single exposure) with the already stunning Chelsea loft with a single exposure that I hit last week in my November 15, it’s the exposures, Mars; why stunning loft at 161 West 15 Street sold under $1,200/ft. That loft was smaller (“1,200 sq ft”) so the single exposure is probably more dramatically limiting on that floor plan, but that one sold (remember: already “stunning”) at $1,163/ft. Soho still trumps Chelsea, but I am not sure that 35 feet over Broadway in the busiest part of Soho trumps West 15th Street off Seventh Avenue as a location. Yet the gut-and-build in the lovely Little Singer Building sold for all of $22/ft less than the (yes) already stunning Jensen Lewis loft.

let’s play the Index, and see which loft outperformed the other

When loft #4A sold, the StreetEasy Manhattan Condo Index was 2,188. The loft upstairs sold in the same “[b]ring your architect” condition on December 14, 2011 for $2mm, when the Index was 1,890. The Index implies that a similar loft in the same building should have sold in September 16% higher than the even $2mm at which #5A sold. If you are not fumbling for the your phone, you’ve already figured out that #4A sold in September 20% higher than #5A in December 2011.

The Spanish sculptor wins!

Sharp-eyed readers of Manhattan Loft Guy will recall that I hit that #5A sale when it was current, in my February 6, 2012, loft seller massively resets expectations to sell 41% off post-Peak request at 561 Broadway. The focus in that post was on expectations, reset “massively”, as that headline put it. There was some quality snark in that post:

it is very interesting that the seller had entertained the fanciful notion in 2008 and 2009 that this opportunity might be worth more than $1,500/ft

I was also in the building when the much larger  #12A sold on September 30, 2010 (with “3,000 sq ft”) for $4.2mm, or $1,400/ft. That post was fun for comping against the even larger neighbor that had sold as a total gut job right around The Peak of the Manhattan real estate market for (an adjusted) value of $1,126/ft (after taking into account a private terrace). I figured in that post that the #12A renovation was much more than basic, so likely cost much more than $250/ft. Compared to #4A, #12A also has the advantage of much better light and views, so there are other comp adjustments to make, beyond time and condition. (On time alone, the Index implies that the overall Manhattan residential real estate market has improved 16% in the 3 years between #12A and #4A.)

Looks like another win for the Spanish sculptor.

For still more quality Manhattan Loft Guy snark in the building, we have to use the other entrance to the Little Singer and revisit my March 21, 2012, real estate sales made easy: 88 Prince Street loft sells because (some say) it is correctly located. Snark aside (read it: it’s good), that one dealt with a loft in the same “L” shaped building but facing north that sold for $1,167/ft in truly beautiful condition. Playing the Index, again, we have #4A at $1,142/ft needing a total gut and the ‘done’ #7C in February 2012 at $1,167/ft, when the Index implies the overall market was up (only) 15% in that period.

Looks like yet another win for the Spanish sculptor.

what does the future hold? (I have some ideas…)

Anyone comping on the Broadway side of the building off of the #4A sale would adjust for floor height (in this case a double benefit: further from the noise of the traffic on Broadway and better light and/or more open views), as well as any difference in condition. If you took an aggressive stance on the value of light, you might hope that clearing the rooftops across Broadway might be worth as much as … what? … $300,000. Sounds like a too-big premium to me, but you might just give it a shot.

I have to believe that an owner with a substantially identical loft to #4A just 4 floor higher that does look at the roof edge opposite would not really expect to attract a buyer asking much more than $300,000 over the settled #4A value.

It remains a free country. The fact that the owner of #8A took a shot at a $600,000 premium tells me she was looking for someone to make her day. #8A has much better (dare I say, “dazzling”) light and already has central air, but there’s no bragging there about finishes. Assume another gut, and assume she will need additional market oomph to find a loft buyer at that loft-y value if she comes back to market.

That’s my story, and I am sticking to it. Until market conditions change, or someone does something irrational (in the sense of beyond-comps). That is all.

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